In advance of the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years that takes place on Sept. 28, the White House released the Biden-Harris National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health that “sets us on a path to end hunger, enhance nutrition, and improve health outcomes in this country,” per an accompanying statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who emphasized the items addressing school meals.
“I am particularly excited by the Strategy’s pathway to provide healthy school meals to all students,” he said. “This approach would reorient the school meal programs from an ancillary service to an integral component of the school day and allow schools to focus on providing the highest quality meals and engaging children around the importance of healthy food. Providing all school children access to healthy, nutritious meals will drive better health and give them the tools to reach their full potential, which means a better and fuller future for our nation.”
The document outlines five pillars of the strategy. They are…
1. Improving food access and affordability, including by advancing economic security; increasing access to free and nourishing school meals; providing Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits to more children; and expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations;
2. Integrating nutrition and health, including by working with Congress to pilot coverage of medically tailored meals in Medicare; testing Medicaid coverage of nutrition education and other nutrition supports using Medicaid section 1115 demonstration projects; and expanding Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries’ access to nutrition and obesity counseling;
3. Empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, including by proposing to develop a front-of-package labeling scheme for food packages; proposing to update the nutrition criteria for the “healthy” claim on food packages; expanding incentives for fruits and vegetables in SNAP; facilitating sodium reduction in the food supply by issuing longer-term, voluntary sodium targets for industry; and assessing additional steps to reduce added sugar consumption, including potential voluntary targets;
4. Supporting physical activity for all, including by expanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program to all states and territories; investing in efforts to connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces; and funding regular updates to and promotion of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; and
5. Enhancing nutrition and food security research, including by bolstering funding to improve metrics, data collection, and research to inform nutrition and food security policy, particularly on issues of equity and access; and implementing a vision for advancing nutrition science.